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Angels should beware of bargain basement outfielders

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With the World Series nearing completion, there is little doubt the Angels' front office has already been organizing their offseason wish list. For the third straight year, "left field" very likely tops that list. With failed platoons the last two years, it seems likely they will target a more permanent solution. Like most teams, they will understandably be weary of handing over franchise-altering contracts, considering how poorly last season's seemingly strong crop of free agent outfielders has turned out.

This would seem to position the lesser outfielders on the market for a decent pay day, as teams may be hunting for value over big-time production at a premium price. There will be someone out there to pay Yoenis Cespedes, Ian Desmond and Josh Reddick big dollars, crossing their fingers in hopes that they work out better than Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Alex Gordon. After that trio, there remains plenty of intriguing options for the Angels to finally fill that left field void, if only for a season or two. Josh already covered Rajai Davis in depth, and the community did a great job weighing the positives and negatives of his potential acquisition. I thought it would be interesting to explore other players that fit the mold. Is there any gold to be mined from those hills of aging mediocrity?

Angel Pagan

On the surface, Pagan looks to be just what the doctor ordered. A steady presence atop the Giants' line-up the last few seasons, Pagan makes contact and gets on base at a league-average rate. He has been a good defender, particularly in the corners. He is a switch hitter who is strongest from his left-side, but hangs in there as a righty. Injuries in 2013-14 have wrecked his previously-excellent speed, but he has made up for it with smarts on the base paths and doubles-power.

So what's not to like? For starters, he is 35 and hasn't played a full season since 2012. His career slash line is an acceptable .280/.330/.408, a standard he impressively maintained last year as a 34 year-old. However, there is some concern that his decline could be coming more rapidly than his numbers on the surface show. For starters, he is only a year removed from a .262/.303/.332 season, despite holding a steady average on balls in play. His strike out rate jumped four points that year, to 16.9%.

Pitchers know before anyone when a hitter's bat slows down. Guess who led all of baseball in fastballs seen last season? That's right, Angel Pagan, who saw nothing but the hard stuff 66.7% of the time. That's what you call a slider-speed bat. While he did cut down on his strikeouts from the previous season, it could indicate that he was cheating on pitches, a sign that a guy is about to lose it all together.

Jon Jay

Jon Jay will be 32 at the start of next season, making him the younger model in the Pagan mold. Jay has historically been a very good defender in center, though he likely profiles best in a corner going forward. Also like Pagan, he has maintained a very steady slash line throughout his career. In his first year away from the Cardinals, he batted .291/.339/.389 in spacious Petco Park. He is a left-handed hitter with virtually no platoon split. His stolen base numbers have declined in recent years, but he kept himself in the black this past season, with 3.3 base-runs despite only 2 stolen bases.

Jay struggled in 2015 and missed significant time due to a wrist injury. After an offseason trade to the Padres, Jay seemed to re-discover his stroke before a hit-by-pitch fractured his forearm, causing him to miss significant time once again. He returned to action in September, batting .273/.317/.325 in the season's final month. Have these injuries resulted in any long-term affects?

One major red flag is a jump in strike outs. While maintaining a solid 15.7% ratio with the Cards, he saw his whiff rate jump to 20.9% with the Padres. For a guy who doesn't walk and has no power, that is an alarming number. Of course, with a full offseason to re-build strength in his arms, there is a chance that Jay come back in 2017 as his old contact-hitting self and be a spark plug for the Angels. It also could signify the beginning of the end of what once was a useful outfield weapon, making him more of an ideal bench piece.

Michael Saunders

Coming off a career year and entering his age-30 season, Saunders doesn't quite fit the mold of bargain-basement outfielder. He also likely finds himself outside the deep-end of the free agent pool, thanks to his extensive history of injuries and inconsistency. Of course, the Angels nearly got to enjoy Saunders' career year for themselves this season, when a proposed three-way trade with the Blue Jays and Reds was derailed thanks to some damaged goods coming from the Jays' system.

Will Billy Eppler go back to the well with Saunders? He doesn't quite fill the description of "speedy outfielder" that Billy claims to be after. In fact, Fangraphs absolutely hated his defense this season, rating him a -8.9 UZR, with most of that work coming in left field. Baseball Reference agreed, tabbing him with a -1.7 dWAR. Despite hitting .253/.338/.442 with 24 HR and earning his first All Star nod, his shoddy glove work brought down his overall value, ending the year with a 1.4 WAR.

Whenever a veteran makes their first All Star team, one has to ask if it was simply a result of a fluky first-half. In the case of Saunders, his month-by-month trajectory speaks for itself:

Month

AVG

OBP

SLG

April

.311

.370

.581

May

.276

.372

.490

June

.286

.350

.593

July

.256

.374

.488

August

.218

.299

.436

September/Oct

.149

.230

.224

Maybe we can excuse Saunders for wearing down after playing his first full season in, well, basically ever. One encouraging sign is that Saunders did not enjoy the typical "boost" that we routinely see from hitters in Toronto, posting fairly similar numbers on the road as he did in home games, making his career-year seem like less of a mirage. Still, should Billy Eppler be willing to bet that Saunders' bat has enough upside to make up for the fact that he's never been healthy before this year and offers basically nothing outside the batter's box?

Chris Coghlan

Chris Coghlan has made a name for himself this postseason, mostly as the guy who hasn't been as horrible as Jason Heyward. The Cubs thought enough of his talents to re-acquire him from the A's, despite batting only .146/.215/.272 as a part-timer in Oakland. Including the second half of 2016, he has been a very useful part for the Cubs over parts of three seasons, batting .264/.351/.441. He is also a plus-defender in left, with the bonus of being able to fill in at second or third in a pinch.

A left-handed hitter, he would need a platoon partner, which the Angels have in the fold with Jefry Marte. At 31 years-old, Coghlan is what he is at this point. However, he is a Scott Boras client, so expect him to drive a hard bargain. With his struggles in the AL, Eppler will have to weigh his options and decide if he is a good enough fit to tangle with not only Boras, but also the Cubs, who seemingly can't get enough of the guy despite having the deepest roster in the game.

The bottom of the barrel

Angel fans surely recall fondly Peter Bourjos gliding through centerfield like a gazelle, snatching fly balls with relative ease and posting historic defensive numbers. While the glove remains, he never did improve on his modest offensive numbers with the Halos, regressing to the point of being a bench piece on the bottom-dwelling Phillies this year. While a platoon of Bourjos and Rafael Ortega would likely give the Angels the best defensive outfield in the game, neither should be expected to hit enough - even with the platoon advantage - to give the Angels the production they need from left field.

Carlos Gomez gave Texas quite the boost after being claimed off waivers from the Astros. Going into his age 31 season, is a hot 33-game stretch with the Rangers enough to erase the abysmal 71 OPS+ he posted over two years in Houston? The glove remains an asset, so he could be worth a shot. Like Coghlan, he is a Boras client, so the question becomes how much will they try to leverage one hot month into a big pay day? He seems like a guy who might sign very late in the offseason, when all the other names are off the board.

Speaking of struggling Astros, Colby Rasmus made history by becoming the first player to ever accept a qualifying offer and promptly put up a dud of a season, batting .206/.286/.355 in a hitter's paradise in Houston. He will have to take a huge pay cut to re-establish his value next season, though at this point he looks like a platoon player, at best.

Seth Smith is a reliable left-handed bat who is plenty familiar with the AL West. He enjoyed another solid season with the Mariners in 2016, batting .249/.342/.415. On the down side, he is a strict platoon player who saw a steep decline with his glove in left field, posting a -6.3 UZR in 2016. In previous seasons, he has been a steady defender in left, though at age 34 we have to accept the possibility that his decline is more than a one-year blip.

It will be at least a couple of years before we know what we have in Jahmai Jones, Michael Hermosillo and Brandon Marsh. In the meantime, are any of the above options preferable to our in-house candidates Marte and Ortega? Did I miss any other potential nuggets in this year's free agent class?